Become a Professional Event, Party or Wedding Planner

© 2003-2006 Diane M. Aull

Do you like to party?

Are you organized, creative, and almost unflappable? Are you on a first-name basis with the folks at the party-supplies store? Do you know who the best caterers are in town, the most elegant halls, the most vibrant entertainers? Event planning may be just the business idea you’ve been looking for.

What does an Event Planner do?

Well, there are a lot of different specialties that fall out under the general category of "event planner." What, specifically, you do will depend on your own experience and interests, as well as the demands of your local market. You can choose to specialize in one or more of these:

Special Events
This would involve organizing and promoting such things as fundraisers for local charities, grand openings for businesses, gala dinner-dances, awards ceremonies, and the like. You’ll need to be highly organized and have a good grasp of marketing, as well. Frequently the sponsors of these events will want you to handle publicity as well as organize the event itself.
Conference/Meeting Planner
You’ll work with businesses and organizations of all sizes to plan conferences, retreats and business meetings. You’ll need to have good negotiation skills in order to get them the best possible rates at the conference centers or hotels, as well as knowledge of the travel industry (or contacts who are travel agents) in order to arrange cost-effective travel and transportation.
Party Planner
One day you could be helping plan a birthday party for a six-year-old; the next, you could be working on a 50th anniversary; the day after that, a baby shower. You’ll need a lot of creativity to come up with innovative and original party themes, as well as cost-effective decorations, food, and entertainment.
Wedding Planner
Whatever you do, make sure you get them to the church on time! Help couples (and their parents) have lovely memories of this very important event. Make sure the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, and reception go off without a hitch. You’ll need to be a Jill-of-all-trades, as you’ll have to locate venues, obtain or make decorations, hire a caterer, book entertainment… you name it. You might even be called upon to help with travel and lodging arrangements for the honeymoon or for out-of-town guests.
Fill in the blank…
Make up your own specialty. If you see a need in your area that’s not being met, fill it!

How can I learn more?

The first thing to do is check out various organizations. Two you might want to take a look at are the International Special Events Society (ISES) and the International Society of Meeting Planners.

ISES offers local chapter, regional and national meetings and conventions; educational opportunities; a certification program (Certified Special Events Professional); plus networking and leadership opportunities and Special Events magazine.

The International Society of Meeting Planners boasts members in over 90 countries. They offer a quarterly newsletter, discounts on meeting and event planning related products and small business services, and a listing in their vendor directory. They sponsor five professional designations: Registered Meeting Planner (RMP), Certified Event Planner (CEP), Certified Entertainment Managers (CEM), Certified Destination Specialist (CDS), and Incentive Travel Specialist (ITS).

There are also a number of e-books and other resources that you might find helpful:

How to Become an Event Planner
This e-book offers creative ideas for events, as well as invaluable resources for event planners and advice on starting your own event planning business. Written by three professional event planners. They share their experiences, plus insider tips and expert advice. The book contains contributions from over a dozen successful event planners. Topics covered include finding and approaching prospects, interviewing for a project, starting your own event planning business, getting certified, pricing your services, sample contracts and documents, and more. 189 pages, downloadable. (CD-ROM version available for a nominal added fee.)
[Learn more]
How to Become a Wedding Planner
With the increasing numbers of two-career couples, many people are finding they need a wedding planner (also known as a bridal consultant, wedding consultant, or wedding coordinator) to help them insure all the details of this important day are taken care of professionally. This e-book covers all aspects of getting started as a successful wedding planner, including how to plan a wedding, how to price your services, where to find resources, how to market yourself, how to create a portfolio (even when you’re just starting out), and much more. Written by two professional wedding planners who have coordinated weddings in locations around the world. 224 pages, downloadable. (Limited edition printed book and CD-ROM version, including sample documents and forms, is also available.)
[Learn more]
EventPlanner.com — event planning resource directory
An online Web site resource for the event, meeting and travel planning industries. If you are an event or meeting planner, you can add a listing to their directory. Plain text listings are free, but will take 6-12 weeks to be posted. Paid listings are available, which offer 23-48 hour posting, a detailed description of your company and a link to your Web site. The site also features directories of auditoriums and arenas, hotels and resorts, attractions, conference and convention centers.
[Visit site]
EventTips.com — event planning resource directory
This Web site features hundreds of pages of planning tips, information and advice, plus a resource directory of vendors and event-related companies.
[Visit site]
PartyPop — party planning resource directory
Party ideas, planning resources and links to loads of vendors. They say they’ve got the resources you need whether you’re planning a child’s birthday party up to a high-end wedding. If you’re an event planner yourself, you can get listed in their vendor directory — at the time of this writing, it looked to be free to register.
[Visit site]
BanquetCentral — catering and banquet hall directory
Online directory of banquet and catering halls in the USA and Canada. As of the time of this writing, they had over 220 halls listed in 35 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces. Catering halls can add their listing for free.
[Visit site]
American Bridal — wedding party favors
An enormous selection of wedding party favors, many of which would also be suitable as favors for non-wedding parties, too! Absolutely unbelieveable variety of bridesmaid and groomsman gifts, cake toppers, bridal accessories. For the bargain-conscious, they even have a section for “99-cent wedding favors”!
[Visit site]

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